Maybe you'd better tell him that you trashed his friend to go to bed with a total stranger last night."
"Shush!" Jade told her sister, covering the mouthpiece once again.
"Look," she told Canady, "I believe I must be in serious danger, since it appears these people have come to the States and are hunting down the survivors from last October," Jade said. "I can call a locksmith right away-"
"Yes, you can. But don't."
"I'll explain when I see you. May I come over now?"
"Yes, I guess."
"No, no-wait. Meet me downstairs, at the French restaurant next door."
"I'm not at the station; I'm home. It will take me a bit to drive in. Meet me in, say, thirty minutes."
She hung up.
"What?" Shanna shrieked.
"I'm going to meet him at the restaurant."
"The cop?" Shanna said.
"Yes, the cop, who else? Shanna, the auto accident the other day ... It wasn't an accident. It was a murder."
"But his car went through a tree," Shanna reminded her.
"I don't know exactly what happened. I don't know how or why, but Shanna, it was another one of the kids from Scotland."
The sisters stared at one another.
"So," Shanna said after a minute. "You're going to meet with this cop next door at a restaurant-why not at the station?"
"I don't know."
The phone started to ring again. This time neither one of them wanted to answer it.
The machine picked up. "Jade, it's Gavin. Please give me a call as soon as possible. I-" She swept up the receiver quickly. "Gavin?"
"Hey, kid. I'm sorry, I've got some really bad news for you."
"About the kid in the car accident. I know who he was, Gavin. I just heard. Why didn't you tell me about him this morning, too?"
"That's not why I called, Jade. Rick has been taken to the hospital. He's bad. Really, really bad. I thought that you'd want to know, that ... that you might want to be with him." She frowned. "Gavin, is it that serious?"
"Jade ... they're pumping blood into him hard and fast. They had him packed in ice... and now they've called a priest. He's Roman Catholic, you know."
"Last rites?" she said softly.
"I'm so sorry, Jade."
She dropped the phone. She even forgot her sister as she snatched up her handbag and started out the door.
"Jade!" Shanna cried.
She paused long enough to stare at her sister. "Rick may be dying."
Shanna was up beside her.
At the street level they hailed a cab, both completely forgetting about meeting Sean Canady at the French restaurant.
She had been taking the baby's clean clothes from the dryer, trying not to think about Lucian or Jade MacGregor or anything that was happening.
She closed her eyes, doubting that she had heard her name so clearly.
Lucian's voice. He could still reach her. Even now.
Lucian, where the hell are you?
The cemetery. The vault. I could feel you. You've been trying to reach me.
Yes! Lucian, they killed in Massachusetts last night. And they've killed here. A murder they concealed. Lucian, I think your friend Jade is in serious danger.
Last night. Sean has been desperate to find you, to tell you. One by one, they're attacking and killing the survivors from Scotland. I've been trying to reach you through Jade. I couldn't explain why I needed you. . . . Sean finally called her. He left to meet with her.
Thank God. Then she's safe for now.
For now. Lucian, you've got to stop them.
I know. Maggie, take care of yourself. They might suspect our connection.
Maggie looked around her den. There was garlic everywhere-huge cloves covering all the windows.
She'd been out earlier, visiting the church-scooping up water from the baptism font. She had carved dozens of broom handles into sharp stakes, and placed them where she would have quick and ready access to them.
I know how to deal with the undead, Lucian.
But don't be careless, Maggie. Not in any way.
Tell Sean I know what's happened- and that I'll find him. Maggie?
I'll tell Sean you called, Lucian. I know how much he loves me, and that he has a certain reserved respect for you. But I'd just as soon he not know you can still touch my mind.
Lucian was silent a moment. She could almost see him smiling.
When I see him, I'll tell him I called you.
Take the greatest care, Lucian, please.
I will, Maggie. You take care of yourself
. And that baby. And ... your husband.
There was someone on the porch. The mailman? Was it time? Liz MacGregor didn't suspect any danger. Her husband had inherited his beautiful Garden District home from his folks. He'd lived there all his life. He knew every one of his neighbors.
It would never have occurred to her to be worried. She stepped outside, looking around. "Hello?"
"Hello! I was getting ready to ring your bell."
He was tall and thin, with a charming half smile, wearing a gray uniform and carrying a black box and a clipboard.
"Mrs.... um... MacGregor, right?" he asked, checking his clipboard. He offered her a cheerful smile.
"I'm the cable guy. Oh-not Jim Carrey. Please! Seriously, I'm from the cable company."
"Oh! Hi!" She shook his hand. "I didn't call; we haven't been having any trouble."
"No, I know, but we're testing out a new children's station. It's a family channel, but geared to young children. There will be great new shows for little people. We'd like you to be one of our test families, with your little ones. I'm telling you, I've seen some of the programming, and it's just great. Your kids will love it. If I could just see your box for two seconds-I'll be in and out in a flash." Liz smiled. She had Disney and Nickelodeon, but there was never enough programming for little kids.
Good programming for little kids.
"I'd be happy to sign on as a test family," she said. "Come on in." She reentered the house.
Sean Canady reached the restaurant. Jade MacGregor wasn't there. He sat down and ordered coffee.
And waited. And waited.
They wouldn't let Shanna in to see Rick, only Jade, and only because the police had explained that she was the closest thing to family Rick had at the time.
She couldn't believe how quickly the virus had taken over. He wore an oxygen mask, and an IV
dripped blood into his veins while another tube was bringing nourishment. She sat down at his side and took his hand. He didn't acknowledge her.
She was there about an hour before a doctor came. When he did, she bombarded him with questions.
What was it? What was happening? Surely he was young and strong, and he was going to get better?
"Miss MacGregor, you're his fiancée, right?"
She hesitated-then lied. She had no intention of allowing anyone to throw her out of the hospital.
"Yes," she said.
"I'm glad you're here. He doesn't have any family."
"His folks died when he was young. He has cousins, I guess, but they all moved away. No siblings."
"Good, good, then I'm really glad that you're here for him. This thing just attacked him, drained him, dehydrated him ... he needed blood in the worst way. We're still running tests. But I'm pleased to tell you he is doing better. He's holding his own."
"I'm grateful, but. .. what is it?"
"We still don't really know. I hate to admit that, but it's the truth. We've brought in several disease experts ... tested for food poisoning, bacteria .. . anemia .. . we're still working on it. But we have stabilized him."
She nodded, thanking him.
"You can stay with him awhile? I'm willing to bet he knows you're here."
"I'll stay. Of course I'll stay."
She sat at his side, holding his hand.
* * *
Shanna was stirring clumpy, powdered cream into a cup of overbrewed coffee when Sean Canady took the seat opposite her at the cafeteria table.
She straightened immediately, her eyes going wide at the sight of him.
"Hello, Shanna. Jade is with Rick?"
"Yes. I'm so sorry; we forgot all about you. They called about Rick-"
"Let me get you some coffee."
He lifted a hand. "No, thanks. I just had about twenty cups."
"At the French restaurant?"
"I'm so sorry."
"It's all right."
"Well, at least, I'm sure, you had much better coffee."
He grinned. "Probably."
"They wouldn't let me in to see Rick. Only Jade. He's so sick. I just can't believe it."
"I wish I could see him," Sean muttered. He studied Shanna suddenly. "How are you feeling?"
"Me?" She straightened. "I'm fine."
"She's fine, too. Just fine. But that cold is going around, I guess. Cold! It's much worse than a cold.
Poor Rick. I can't believe it, but they say... his life is in danger. They've had a priest in. He's had last rites."
"So I heard, but last report has it that he's doing somewhat better."